December 28, 2023 | www.newsweek.com
Former South Carolina Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley is facing backlash from Black conservatives over her explanation for the cause of the U.S. Civil War.
Haley's comments were made during a town hall campaign event in Berlin, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, during which a voter asked her to identify the cause of the Civil War. She responded by saying that the fight was about "how government was going to run" and failed to mention slavery in her answer.
"I mean, I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are," she said during her answer. "And I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people. Government doesn't need to tell you how to live your life.
Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley addresses the crowd during a campaign stop at the Nevada Fairgrounds community building on December 18, 2023, in Nevada, Iowa. Haley is facing backlash from several Black Republicans after failing to mention slavery when asked about the cause of the Civil War.
Prominent Black conservatives, such as Florida Congressman Byron Donalds, criticized Haley for her answer, which focused on "the rights of the people" and "economic freedom."
"1. Psst Nikki... the answer is slavery PERIOD," Donalds wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday. "2. This really doesn't matter because [former President Donald] Trump is going to be the nominee. Trump 2024!"
Newsweek reached out to Haley's campaign via email on Thursday for comment.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele also reacted to Haley's comments with a message on X, writing: "Umm, Nikki...seriously?"
Conservative political commentator Armstrong Williams wrote on his X account that Haley's comments were only part of the answer.
"Former Governor Nikki Haley, yes many issues ignited the Civil War: including states' rights, role of federal government, preservation of our Union, and the economy; but all were inextricably bound to the institution of slavery," Williams posted.
"Yikes," DeSantis' campaign wrote on X alongside a video of Haley's answer. "Local New Hampshire stations are already covering Nikki Haley's disastrous town hall tonight where she declined to mention 'slavery' when asked 'What was the cause of the Civil War?'"
Haley further explained her answer during a campaign event in North Conway, New Hampshire, on Thursday, stating: "Of course, the Civil War was about slavery."
"That's unquestioned, always the case, we know the Civil War was about slavery," she said. "But it was also more than that. It was about the freedoms of every individual. It was about the role of government. For 80 years, America had the decision and the moral question of whether slavery was a good thing and whether government—economically, culturally, any other reasons—had a role to play in that."